A little over two months ago I finally decided, after much reading online, to purchase a Motorola S9-HD Stereo Bluetooth Headset for use with my iPhone. The reason I decided to add my two cents to this already vast array of reviews was simple. The field has changed so many times with this headset and with what iPhone supports, the reviews ran from “The Two Devices Don’t Work Together” to “This Combo is Perfect”.
This review will highlight some of the technical and physical features of the devices interoperability as well as some of the problems that are sadly still abound. For this review we will be using the following equipment:
* Motorola S9-HD Model 89307N
* Apple iPhone 4 running iOS 4.0.2
I purchased my headset from Amazon, or rather a place called Accessories Warehouse and the order was fulfilled by Amazon.com. In the reviews I found numerous people who had received refurbished or even knock-off versions of the S9-HD headset, however at $64.90 I decided to take my changes and have had no problems. I received retail packaging in new condition as I would expect from an Amazon reseller.
The S9-HD’s are a behind the head design with the battery at the center rear of your head. This places the biggest parts out of your way, but also adds weight to the back of the unit causing a constant pull downward. For me the headset feels best when the battery is pulled up slightly (not resting on my neck), but as gravity works, I keep having to adjust the headset even with light activity; this is, of course, more pronounced when jogging. Its slight protrusion from the neck is also a problem on a flat bench.
The unit uses pressure just in front of the ears, near the temples, to help hold everything in place. If you wear glasses (or sunglasses outside) this poses a slight problem as your glasses will get in the way and cause further slippage. Luckily for me, my glasses are fairly thin and do not pose too much of a problem for the fit, however if you have clunky glasses you may be out of luck.
The unit comes with three different rubber cover sets for the speaker units. I have a pretty large head, but found the smaller rubber covers to work best. They fit moderately well into my ears, but need constant adjusting due to the heavy back I mentioned earlier.
The battery on the S9-HD is rechargeable and the unit comes with a wall adapter to mini-USB. This versatility is very helpful because at any time you can use a standard computer USB port to charge your headset if you don’t happen to have the wall adapter.
The battery typically lasts for most of a weeks worth of workouts. I only use this when I do cardio or if my weight workouts happen to be solo. The downside to having a rechargeable battery is that you only have 10-15 minutes worth of charge after the low battery notification beep. I have forgotten numerous times to charge the headset, started a workout only to get the low battery beep 5 minutes in and not have music for most of my workout.
The sound quality is pretty good. You would of course expect to loose a bit of quality over a wired headset (and you do) but the joy of not being tethered to your iPhone on the treadmill is worth the trade off for me. I can’t tell you the number of times I have held my breath as my iPhone went flying across the cardio theater when I hit the headphone cable while jogging.
There is a hiss associated with my headset. When I first pair it with my iPhone, before anything is playing, it is very obvious. The noise is barely perceptible to me during audio playback, however spoken word or quiet sections of music reveal the hiss. This maybe annoying to some users, however I think audiophiles will probably already be dismissing this headset completely anyway.
I watch quite a few internet video podcasts. When I first got this device, the sync with video was atrocious. I was not surprised by this, but recently I haven’t had any trouble. Initially I was turning on the headset, then activating bluetooth on the iPhone. I found doing the opposite, first turning on iPhone bluetooth, then powering on the headset alleviated any problems with sync. In hindsight, the order of power up may have fixed my sync issue or perhaps it was a software version patch, but I have not had any troubles with iPhone 4.0.2 and audio/video sync.
The S9-HD headset comes with six function buttons (volume up, volume down, answer/end calls, pause/play, skip forward, skip back) but only four of these currently work with iOS 4.0.2.
* Volume Up and Volume Down -These control the volume on the headset itself and not on the iPhone which is still controlled independently by the onscreen slider or the iPhone side volume buttons.
* Answer/End Calls – This button is ultra handy as a simple click during an incoming calls smartly pauses your audio and answers the call. Conversely a click during an active call ends the call and restarts your music. This button also performs double duty as it will start voice control when pressed at any time other when needed for accepting or ending a call. Pressing and holding this button redials your most recently called number.
* Pause/Play – This button does exactly what is sounds like. At any time it will start or pause the iPhone’s iPod function.
* Skip Forward and Skip Back – Sadly these buttons don’t do a thing when the S9-HD is paired with an iPhone, however it has been somewhat widely posted on the internet that iOS 4.1 will implement AVRCP which should fix this. Update: With the release of iOS 4.1, the skip buttons work perfectly.
In the end I love this headset. Despite the poorer then wired sound quality, difficulty getting positioned properly and the battery dieing occasionally, I love being able to put my iPhone in my pocket and not have to worry about wires. At under $70, I personally think it is a good investment if you are willing to suffer a few trade offs for freedom from wires.